Tranquility in the streets of Prague
written by Benjamin Adams (St. Lawrence University)
Tranquility, I believe that this is the appropriate word to begin this post with. It is the only word that comes to mind as I slowly sip on my espresso gazing across the Volta River, catching sights of red roof tops, seagulls gliding lazily around the tour boats that inhabit the river, and the gargantuan gothic architecture that is Prague castle, a behemoth of craftsmanship nestled in a baroque enclosure of Easter egg palaces. I sit and observe the scene before me, glancing occasionally at the many colorful tourists walking by with their gaping and gawking expressions. The waitress passes by, looks down at my nearly empty cup and asks if I would like another. I kindly say no, sending her on her way so as to return back to the scene which had captivated me before.
Reflecting on the past three weeks, it would be hard to explain every little detail that I have come across since my arrival into the city of Prague. I say this because there are so many details that by the time I was done explaining what I have seen, I would have most likely surpassed the original count and could probably publish a book on these moments. The buildings are lined with busts of Greek gods, statues of saints, and etched carvings women that most men would only meet in their dreams. Yet among all of this, the buildings themselves are seasoned with bits of street art and graffiti, giving the city a roughness around the edges but still maintaining the romanticist appeal, the very same that inspired Mozart, Kafka and the many others who have passed through its streets.
The rain falls harder; I lean back and watch the many tourists flock like birds to the safety of the café that I am in. The waitress passes, looks, gives a disapproving stare and moves on.
I turn and look down at the packet before me. The words “Modra Kniha” look back up at me. It is a work book for my Intensive Czech class. I have spent the past two weeks learning and reviewing the Czech language before the vibrant and enthusiastic Jano Cerna, a woman in her early 40s with lightly dyed red hair and a rickety movement about her. By far my favorite language teacher that I have had the pleasure to learn from, her skill has reflected on czech language skills, so I hope to keep working hard towards becoming somewhat fluent. Though, after past two weeks of 5 hour lessons a day, it was pure bliss to allow my mind to rest for just a moment as I sipped my espresso with the waitress’s darting eyes examining me from afar.
My phone beeps and buzzes and I answer. It is my Housemate Eddie. A kind and relaxed young man with the interests of philosophy, political science and literature, he has been living with me in the attic of our home-stay family. We both share a bathroom and have quaint white washed little rooms looking out onto the red tiled suburbs of Praha 4, a 20 minute metro ride from the city center. He is looking to catch the metro back at 5:30 in order to make it home for dinner at 7 with the family. The family that I live with consists of two parents, Jirka and Lenka, and two children, Adrianno and Matiash. Very kind and loving they are with an expressed in interest in our lives and in the progress of our Czech language skills. I will be eagerly looking forward towards actually holding a conversation with them in Czech soon. I glance from the waitress to the streets. It seems clear enough. We agree to meet at the metro stop Muzeum, where both the A line and the C line meet. I get up, pay the waitress and walk away with two holes bored into the back of my head. I look up at the sky, analyzing the risk for precipitation.
The rain deceives me and I am soon standing at the street corner waiting to run underground to the safety of the metro station. Yet even while I am waiting, I still cannot help but look up at the decadent beauty of the architecture as city casts upon the unsuspecting spectator. With this, I am brought back to that state of tranquility and even as I am sitting on the metro, reading from my raindrop spotted paperback book, I can still feel that tranquility musing from inside of me.
This tranquility that I speak of is in a sense meditative. The sense of confidence instilled in me while being lost in the twisting and bounding streets of Prague is comforting when acknowledging my past history of being lost. When I was a child, my family and I went on a family vacation to Disney world, a very exciting moment in my childhood. But as life would have it, I suddenly became that lost child in the ever flowing crowds of people looking to take pictures of the Disney Castle. So I took my juice box and stood on a bench to get a better view of the castle, knowing in full confidence that my family would notice and come find me.
Thus, I find my time in Prague to be a reflection of that particular family vacation. Being lost with no worries is a comforting notion. Yet the city of Prague is very new and different to me and so I will be sure to make myself lost at certain points so that not only can I discover more of the city, but I will be able to enjoy that conscious feeling of meditative tranquility. So as I reflect during my time in the chapel of bones in Kutna Hora, hiking in the bohemian paradise or spending the day examining the display of Mucha pieces at the Art Noveau Gallery in the Municipal Building, what I have gathered within my 3 weeks in the Czech Republic has been the stillness of smoke floating within the underground brick pits of local pubs, the calm sip of a Pilsner after it was poured on tap and the soft exchanging of words with a friend over a brisk walk to the next sight. Some go to nature to find the serenity of peace, but I have found it in the city of Prague.